Last year was officially the busiest of all time for airline passenger traffic at Durango-La Plata County Airport (DRO). Total airline traffic – 397,293 passengers – was 1.7% higher than in 2019, when the previous record was established, and a remarkable 101% more than passenger traffic in 2020 when the pandemic weighed heavily on demand.
The record year occurred despite passenger traffic being down more than 30% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2019 as pandemic conditions continued to suppress demand. Traffic recovery began in earnest in the spring and early summer, with monthly records for passenger traffic set each month from June through December.
"We were excited to welcome back passengers in 2021 who had deferred their travels most of the prior year,” Aviation Director Tony Vicari said. “After a challenging 2020, we saw the results of significant pent-up demand for travel from local residents and visitors. Whether travelers were flying to see family for the first time in over a year, or were finally going on that long-awaited vacation, the team at DRO was happy to help to get them there safely and efficiently.”
Overall airline seat capacity was down 1.6% from 2019 levels. American Airlines was the market share leader at DRO in 2021, carrying 47% of passengers. United Airlines carried 43% of passengers, while both Frontier Airlines and Delta Air Lines carried 5% of passengers. Load factors, or the percentage of seats sold, finished at 71%, up from 69% in 2019.
The strong recovery in air travel demand at DRO in 2021 can be attributed to several factors.
- Delta Air Lines and Frontier Airlines were added to the flight schedule in May and June respectively, and American Airlines expanded seasonal flights to Los Angeles. These additions boosted overall seat capacity out of DRO by 8% during the busiest time of the year as compared with summer of 2019. Expanded flight options improved market accessibility across the board for travelers utilizing DRO.
- There was strong demand from local residents in 2021. Airport parking lot use met or exceeded use in 2019 each month from June through December.
- There was a wider trend in 2021 towards increased travel across the Mountain West, especially to destinations with good accessibility to outdoor activity.